We commend Student Union in their efforts to bring the Rev. Robert Niehoff S.J. to the March 23 Student Union meeting. John Day, academic vice president, Mark McCarthy, vice president of student affairs, and Sherri Crahen, dean of students, were also in attendance. At the meeting, students and Student Union senators were able to submit questions on note cards that Niehoff directly addressed, such as enrollment and the Hamlin Quad.
We commend Niehoff for attending the meeting and willingness to answer students’ questions. However, The Carroll News thinks that his opening statement was too long. The event was advertised to students as an open forum where they would be allowed to ask questions. Due to the length of his comments, however, only nine student questions were answered. The information that Niehoff presented was interesting and important to be informed about, but wasn’t necessarily relevant to what the students were curious about, and thus negated the purpose of the meeting. In future Student Union forums we feel that the opening comments should be limited to a few minutes so that more student concerns can be addressed.
In his opening and closing statements, Niehoff covered a multitude of issues that he is currently trying to solve and reiterated that he is not always the proper person to contact about many of problems that the students have. Niehoff said that students and parents should contact the heads of the proper departments in order for concerns to be addressed more quickly and effectively. He said multiple times that some of the concerns brought to him by students are not within his area of expertise. The example Niehoff used were student and parent letters he has received about the parking situation.
The Carroll News believes that Student Union should take Niehoff’s advice and invite more administrative leaders, that pertain to current and specific issues, to an open forum. This would be beneficial because more questions would be properly and sufficiently answered while reducing animosity towards Niehoff.
In his statement, Niehoff also placed lack of student knowledge on issues of the student representatives. On each board within the University there are Student Union appointed representatives. Niehoff mentioned that recently many boards have complained about the student delegates’ rate of absences.
The past group of representatives was at fault for the lack of attendance at the previous board meetings. Now that the new representatives have been appointed, there is an opportunity to improve communication between these committee representatives, Student Union and the administration, in hopes that the information will trickle down into the student body.
Furthermore, students need to be made aware of who the representatives are and should be provided with contact information on Student Union’s Web site. These delegates should be held responsible for their attendance at these board meetings as well as communication between the committees and Student Union.
Although Niehoff’s point about better attendance by student representatives is valid, The Carroll News believes that Niehoff should make a more concerted effort to make himself accessible to students on campus in general. Some possible ways of doing this would be to eat in the dining hall a few times a month or to show up at Student Union meetings when in town.
However, Niehoff is not completely at fault for his lack of visibility to students. Earlier this year there was a major outcry for Niehoff to have a stronger presence on campus. Students were furious that he was not able to attend meetings and attacked his motives. On Tuesday, they had the opportunity to confront him about their concerns and allow him to address problems on campus, but they did not bother to attend.
The lack of student participation was disheartening. Considering the amount of advertising combined with the general complaints of people on campus, The Carroll News feels that the low student attendance level at the meeting was inexcusable. Many people assert that they are uninformed about University issues and that they have never seen Niehoff in person, but here was an open forum opportunity to talk with Niehoff, and students failed to attend.
Students have the responsibility of holding Niehoff accountable, but Tuesday illustrated student ambivalence. In failing to provide a strong turnout, students may have given Niehoff the impression that his presence is not necessary.
It is extremely disappointing that our student body was so apathetic and uninterested in an event of such importance. Each student, not just class senators, acts as a voice that should be heard. With only 12 students showing up, an unfortunate message was sent: The student body simply does not care.